Posted on 2 October 2019
In his inaugural speech on Wednesday 2 October, Prof Jeffery announced that the University no longer holds investments in fossil fuel companies.
However, he told an audience of staff, students and invited guests listening to his speech at the University’s Central Hall, there was still “much more to do in this area.”
He said: “We face a global climate emergency. We have brilliant expertise, including among our students, who are often passionate about tackling that emergency, and we have an obligation to act.”
Prof Jeffery said he wanted to harness that “expertise and passion” to produce an evidenced plan for how the University will respond to the climate crisis.
“What we can be sure of is that we will see massive change here in this University and elsewhere over the next decade. One thing I’m certain of is that we will not be doing all the things we are doing now,” he added.
The Vice-Chancellor said he wanted to “set the scene for a conversation” which would help shape a “shared strategic vision” on how the University would look over the next decade.
“I want us to stand back, and think about the longer-term. What kind of University should we be by, say, 2030? What are the changing conditions we will face and how can we position ourselves to flourish amid change?”
Prof Jeffery said the University‘s founding principles, which included international ambition, civic roots and strength of community, still resonate strongly today and would continue to guide the institution.
He added: “The choices we make need to have an anchorage in the strong principles that animate this University.
“In particular, our commitment to public good, sharpened by our concern about inequality; its tradition of widening participation; a purposeful internationalism which pushes the pursuit of public good beyond national boundaries; that mix of support from, and commitment to, city and region; and the strength of shared purpose that comes from caring about inclusiveness.”
The Vice-Chancellor said he wanted to collaborate much more in the city and region, working closely with colleges, local authorities, economic development bodies and business to connect research and graduate talent to drive inclusive economic growth.
He said: “We rightly have a tight focus on ensuring both great teaching and a brilliant wider experience for our students. I think our students will benefit from a more concerted projection of strengths through collaboration.
“Academic partnership, civic leadership and international engagement all open up opportunities for different ways of learning from experience which can add value to the formal curriculum.”
Prof Jeffery said he was proud of York’s international outlook, highlighting the fact we now have research collaborations in 51 countries and students from 140 countries, contributing to public good on a “genuinely global scale.”
He said the University’s academic partnerships and research collaborations demonstrated “extraordinary ambition”, with the work in mental health “perhaps the best cross-disciplinary expertise in the UK.”
On widening participation he added: “Widening access, opening up opportunity, including for those who have been excluded, is a powerful part of our heritage. What we need to do is think hard about what that means today and, where we don’t resemble the society around us enough, we should do something about it.”
“I look forward immensely to working with you all to shape a shared strategic vision that builds on this distinctive heritage at this extraordinary University.”
The speech was welcomed by student leaders.
YUSU President Samara Jones said: “The VC has today set out an ambitious agenda for change. YUSU welcomes his aspirations and acknowledgement of the important role that the University can and should be playing as a good neighbour with a global outlook.
"We are delighted that the University has listened to the voices of students and now divested. The VC's recognition that we face a climate emergency is a major step forward and we look forward to working with the University to develop an ambitious strategy.
“This must be underpinned by clear goals that set out exactly how the University will respond to the major global challenge of climate change with firm commitments to carbon neutrality.
"One of the big draws for me of student life at York was the many rich opportunities that students have to get involved with the city and learn outside the classroom.
“There are huge opportunities to develop this area and think more deeply about the holistic value of institutions to their local communities. In a time of such major social and economic change it's more important than ever that institutions are critically examining their roles in and interrelationships with their communities.
"Today's speech is the start of a much wider conversation and YUSU looks forward to being part of it."
Graduate Students Association (GSA) President Pὕrnur Altay added: “It’s good to hear that the University is taking the threat of climate change seriously.
“We all need to do more to protect the planet for future generations and I look forward to working with the University and our sister union YUSU over the coming year on further initiatives to tackle global warming."